Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony

Order UW Edition of Ivan Wyschnegradsky's Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony.

The publication of the first available English translation of composer and microtonal theorist Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony. This seminal work, originally published in 1932, posits the composer’s methodology and usage of quarter tones as a harmonic language.

Produced with the permission of Association Wyschnegradsky (Paris, France) and Wyschnegradsky's heir Dmitri Vicheney, this new edition is edited by Noah Kaplan and translated into English by Rosalie Kaplan.

Orders should be received between 1-2 weeks of purchase.


"I didn't know what to expect from a reputed mystic like Wyschnegradsky, whose own quarter-tone music so bristles with romantic fervor, but his exploration of quarter-tone possibilities is clear, thorough, and devoid of preconceptions. It's an admirable starting point for the student of quarter-tones who doesn't want to get pushed into any particular direction at the outset."

-Kyle Gann, composer & author


From the foreword:

It is not an overstatement to say that the Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony is a seminal work of music theory. It suggests groundbreaking pathways to the future development of harmony, utilizing the quarter tone as the basic interval of a 24-note octave. The book demonstrates the implementation of microtones in stages corresponding to the development of Western harmony. Beginning with the Baroque-like usage of quarter tones as ornaments and embellishments, it then introduces quarter-tone non-harmonic tones and altered triads, suggesting the harmonic practice of the Classical period. The treatment of quarter tones then extends from simple diatonic progressions to modulations in new quarter-tone keys, then on to quarter-tone chromatic harmony. Part Two introduces ‘artificial’ quarter-tone scales, followed by quarter-tone atonality and poly-tonality. Wyschnegradsky weaves quarter tones into the fabric of our common musical syntax, showing us how they can enrich—and supersede—our grammar. 

-- Noah Kaplan


Audio: Wyschnegradsky's Musical Examples

Complete audio companion realized by Christopher Douthitt.

From the Introduction:

In the scale of twenty-four quarter tones, twelve tones belong to the common system of semitones; the other twelve are new intermediary tones. Here is the chromatic quarter-tone scale.   

The twelve new tones of the quarter-tone system can also be formed in the relationship between two chromatic scales where one scale is transposed by a quarter tone (higher or lower). The relationship between the two scales resembles two combs whose teeth interlock with one another. So any phrase in semitones can be transposed a quarter tone higher or lower.

Circle of the neutral second (also in the space of an octave).  The neutral second divides the minor third in two equal parts. The other sixteen tones that are missing can be made with two additional circles of neutral seconds beginning on C quarter-sharp and C sharp, respectively.